Speech and poem in the municipality of Middelburg

Mayor’s word:

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls.,

Finally, we are all here again on the beautiful Abdul Jalil area. Of course we celebrated our anniversaries the last few years, and perhaps the empty Amsterdam Embankment during the celebration on TV was at least as impressive as it was when it was full of people. But that’s what it should be: Gathering on May 4th to celebrate. It’s good that this is possible again.

On the 4th of May, we commemorate all the victims of war around the world. We do this so as not to forget them and not forget what happened to them and when. We cannot change the past, but by knowing the past we can influence our future. Herein lies the absolute necessity of remembrance.
As long as we don’t forget, we remain vigilant and can help prevent the past from repeating itself.

Commemorating this day is also a moment to consciously reflect on the freedom we can enjoy here in this city and in this country. Freedom for us is like the air we breathe. We don’t think about it every moment of the day when you’re there, but if it suddenly becomes less or worse in quality, we notice it right away. Since it’s too late to respond at this point, you have to move on. Recognizing freedom also helps evaluate our freedom: How are things going? What can we do to improve it?; What does freedom mean to me and what does it mean to you?

Start such a discussion in your own environment and who knows, you may hear things you weren’t aware of. Our awareness of freedom makes us aware of the valuables that are in our hands. Talking about it and continuing to work on it also ensures that we keep it in our hands.
Unfortunately, however, the achievement of freedom that cannot be taken for granted does not appear only during a memorial. In the news, we are informed daily of the horrors of war in Ukraine and confronted with it.
The cities where people lived, worked and lived less than a year ago are now devastated beyond recognition. Homes, parks, schools and buildings were swept away. Gone are the past, stories, history and memories. Innocent people have been killed, and millions have fled. Everything built years ago was completely destroyed in days, but sometimes hours.

We see the worst in man ascend and come out. It will make you hopeless if you don’t see the opposite in others at the same time. He instills in them compassion, leadership and determination.
From the moment the terror began there, I’ve seen the willingness to help appear here. Groups at work, schools and sports clubs. Not only money, but goods as well. Attics and sheds were emptied. Anything that could be useful was delivered.

From the young to the elderly, do what they can on a small and large scale to contribute to the alleviation of immense suffering. But in addition to money and goods, we are also willing to share another great good: our freedom. Refugee families were welcomed with open arms. They’ve got a home here, warm food and comfort. We have integrated them into our community. Instead of refugees, they became roommates, street neighbors, or classmates.

Of course, these terrible events confront us with facts: freedom is not self-evident and you can lose it all of a sudden. But if we look at what has happened and what has been happening around us recently, we can also learn another lesson, which is: We can all make a difference. We’ve all been helping out over the past few months. There are companies that provide trucks to transport goods, but I’ve also seen primary school children with a pickup cart collecting old paper in the neighborhood. They all contributed to the same goal. Everyone did what they could.

This is how you work with freedom. Don’t start with the world, but start on your own street, workplace or school. Talk to each other, and find out if the other person feels free and what you can do to change that. If everyone does this, eventually you will reach the entire world and there will be true freedom for everyone.
This thought is in line with the words of Svyatlana Tsykhanoskaya. She competed against Belarusian Lukashenko in 2020 and was awarded the Four Freedoms Award for this last April 22nd in Middleburg. “Don’t let tyrants write history, the future is ours,” she said in her speech two weeks ago.
Let us take control of our future and create a future of freedom for all. Thank you.”

Harald Bergmann, Mayor of Middleburg

The city of the poet’s poem
The city poet Aschwin van den Abeele recommended him during Memorial Day at Abdijplein in Middelburg.

something like a door
Does this city have such a thing as a door
To come close behind you when you leave?
After that you only have the pictures
You feel the pebbles vibrating in your body
Final echo of voices from Lang Gan

Days go by, and you don’t stand there anymore
Part of the time drips from the stars every day
The gate opens or closes
A city like this measures its life in steps

Some light crosses the street from the west
Memory slips shyly from person to person
Sometimes you have to get used to what binds us
With the one who was only interested in freedom

Is there a door in this city?
Did we take a closer look around to say goodbye?
I thought of everyone’s story
With those before us
Another look, latch in hand?

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